September 7, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (2 Corinthians 5)

Submitted by Ernestine L. from Gracepoint Riverside Church:

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (ESV)

  • What were the things Apostle Paul mentioned as sources of motivation for his ministry?

Apostle Paul lists many sources of motivation for his ministry. In v.11, he starts off with saying “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” He does not state because God has granted them gifts or because of any situation they are in, but the pure motivation that they may persuade others is this knowing the fear of the Lord. This kind of fear of the Lord is not the kind of fear as from a controlling task-master or from a powerful and raging tyrant, where one is forced to be in constant fear that one would not perform up to a certain par in order to be considered worthy or part of His kingdom. This is not the case at all. But this fear of the Lord – this I have come to know as the great fear in reverence, in awe of God’s holiness, His holy standards, His great and dying love. So that a life would respond in humbled and reverent fear of this great, mighty, holy and loving God.

In v .14, Apostle Paul says that it is “the love of Christ” that controls them, meaning no other thing controls their actions, thoughts, motivations, words. They are not controlled by a love of themselves or a love of this world. Apostle Paul notes that they have concluded this – that Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Indeed, it is for this very truth, this very fact that we no longer need to live for ourselves, the things that once were gained through living this way become so meaningless. Being raised from the dead, our spiritually dead state, our impoverished hearts, a life once so void – this is why the Corinthians ought to live for the love of Christ who has done all these things through His death and resurrection.

  • What motivates me?

As I assess what motivates me and also this knowing of the fear of the Lord, I think about the kinds of fears that usually stir and motivate me. Oftentimes, it is notthis knowing of the fear of the Lord. Oftentimes, it is knowing of the fear of whether/not I will fail at something, knowing of the fear of whether/not I will look bad if I don’t perform well or up to par. It is a fearing of losing some sort of image of a “good minister.” This happens when the knowledge of the fear of the Lord is not great within me, when it is not the overwhelming motivation within me, when I fear people’s gaze and approval far more than what it means to fear a Lord who has died for me. But to know wholeheartedly the fear of the Lord – the Lord who has saved me out of the gravest and darkest of sins, cleaned me up, showered graces upon graces on me, opened up His heart to me and now entrusting me with this ministry, is to fear greatly of dishonoring God’s great name, to fear lessening God’s standards of holiness, and fear cheapening his love by replacing with my own selfish motivations lived for nothing more than myself.

  • Reflect on vv. 14-15.  Am I living for Jesus or am I living for myself?

In v.14, Apostle Paul notes the love of Christ that controls them – not the love of themselves, not the love of their image, not the love of approval. What happens, in essence, when I do ministry out of fear of messing up or a need for approval; when I come without my own desires being purely wrought with God’s love, then I come with worldly desires and I live for myself. Again, in light of the holiness of God, my great God who has suffered, sacrificed and died for me so thatI could live – this pure and good message again hits me that I could be given this kind of life, that I could receive such a life as this, and my selfish motivations again exposed and so ugly. And I repent for the wrong fears, the wrong motivations, the wrong heart, living for myself rather than the one who has made this life possible.

 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

  • What new role and mission is given to every Christian?

The new role and mission that is given to every Christian is as it says in v.20 – we are ambassadors for Christ. This means we are to be deliverers of this message of reconciliation – the message that answers our hearts’ greatest longing and fills the greatest void. As Christians, it is our duty to spread this message with the lost and dying. In light of what has been done within us, a freedom and a joy that can be experienced by no other way but Christ’ death and resurrection, our response ought to be to let this be known. I think about the role I have as a Christian compared to the life before in which all I wanted to do was resort to satisfying my own needs and desires, remaining in my own insecurities and self-consciousness. And now my role and mission has been transformed and it is to tell people that they absolutely need this message of reconciliation; that if they do not know this message – their lives would be filled with selfishness and sadness. I think about how this messages tells of a greater news – that people do not need to make something of themselves, do not need to be perfect before coming to Christ, that their trespasses are not counted against them, but all that they would have to do is trust in this Jesus. I think about all the people my life has come in contact with – how indeed my mission in reaching out to them, my role as a Christian here at the Riverside campus, is that they may know this message of reconciliation that saves them from their hopeless efforts to perform, to make the cut, to strive for love and approval in all the wrong places, to give themselves to this world.

 

  • Have I embraced my call as a “minister” of the gospel?  How has this identity affected how I view (or make decisions regarding) my future, money, time, relationships and every other area of my life?

The ways in which I have embraced my call as a “minister” of the gospel include the ways in which I view my future, my role here, my future, money, time, relationships as well as all other areas of my life. My future and my schedule are no longer centered on my plans. Instead, they are offered up for the sake of the gospel and how we can advance our ministry. In the ways I use money, time, energies and efforts – I do in light of what it means to be this “minister.” This means that there is no excessive indulgence upon my own life or hoarding of time for myself. In my relationships with others, there is the desire to deepen and to grow so that the gospel could be made known with those who are new to it, and so that the gospel could be shown through the relationships I have with my co-workers in Christ. Essentially, it is a pushing out of my own desires, a pushing away of my love for myself so that Christ can be made known through my actions and ways. But further still, Christ has to be made known in all and complete areas of my life granted there are still real struggles I come across with sacrificing and giving up time for the sake of the gospel and not for the sake of just appearing a good minister.

Personal Prayer

Lord, thank You for the love You have shown me through this death and resurrection – through this kind of message of reconciliation in which You do not count my trespasses against me, that You offer to entrust me again with this ministry. Thank You for Your Truth that recalibrates my heart, my motivations, my role and mission as a Christian and as Your dearly beloved daughter. Lord, I pray again to hold dear this knowledge of fear – reverent and awe-filled fear that I might loosen the grasp over the fears and motivations of this world.

Submitted by Greg D. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

  • What were the things Apostle Paul mentioned as sources of motivation for his ministry?

The things that the Apostle Paul mentions here as sources of motivation for his ministry are:

-fear of the Lord

-love of Christ

-Christ’s sacrifice for us

-Christ gave us this ministry

  • What motivates me?

As I look at this list, I do see these motivations at work in my life.  Whenever I read of the fear of the Lord, I think back to the second stanza of Amazing Grace “t’was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”  When I was first looking into Christianity I didn’t understand much about the fear of God, it was mostly a search for truth and evidence that drew me towards accepting Christ.  But I remember clearly later on my sophomore year first taking a long had look at the sins inside me, ways I had mistreated people in the past, the pride and lust and fears that filled my mind.  And for the first time it hit me with a deep fear of the Lord, that God sees each and every one of my sins, and it pains him deeply, that I deserve judgment and hell.  But soon after, I remembered how completely forgiven I am of all these things, that the whole point of the cross is these are wiped away, that God saw how horrible they were and chose to rescue and forgive me anyway.  And all of the sudden the fear of the Lord became a reason for huge gratitude in my life, God’s grace and work on the cross seemed so much deeper and more personal.  Indeed, grace taught my heart to fear, then soon my fears relieved.  And it has become one of the great motivations of my life, that God came down and had mercy and an enemy, on a wretch like myself, and that He desires to do the same in every persons life.  That’s it! There is great reason to fear God, our sins against Him, but also great reason to be relieved, all we must do is believe.

God’s love also motivated me to become Christian in the first place, and continues to impel me on in ministry.  I still remember so vividly those last weeks before I became Christian, having narrowed down religious truth to Islam or Christianity, and being very stuck.  I wanted to become a Christian, I had grown to admire them, been going to Bible studies for 1.5 years with them, been in their homes, but still I wasn’t sure if it was true. What if this Islam that claims to be the last of God’s chapters is true and supersedes Christianity.? As I read the Qu’ran and Bible back and forth, searching for an answer, crying out to God, Allah, whoever you are to reveal yourself to me, I remember he did that one night. It hit me that all of Christianity is based on love, and that of Islam on fear. For Islam, the fear that God will punish, that our bad deeds will outweigh our good. For Christianity, the love of God, that I could never do enough good deeds to earn any favor in God’s eyes, but out of love he takes away our sin and gifts us salvation. And that he loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us. Then it all clicked for me, love.  Love always wins, love trumps fear. If a man loves his wife, he would gladly step in and take a bullet for her though he feared death, for love of children families will overcome many fearsome obstacles, etc.  And I thought about my earthly dad, who out of love bore so many operations, 10 years of pain, nearly dying in the hospital many times but pulling through, and all of it without complaint because why? Because he simply had a strong will to live, no!  Because he loved his family dearly and wanted the best for us.  And I realized his love was but a shadow of the love of the eternal God who died for my sins.  And I was able to give my life to Christ that night, on the final assurance and basis of love.  And that has remained the strongest testimony and motivation in my life and proof of the gospel: God’s love.

But of course, there is the flipside to this question.  I see much in my life that motivates me that has little to do with the reasons Paul outlines.  I see much fear of man in my life, much fear of what people think of me, anxiety over what might happen if I try to bring up Christianity or invite them out to something Christian, just fear of looking stupid or making people feel awkward.  I have at the core a very fear driven live, but often not the fear of the Lord that is appropriate.  It is pride that I look good, and misplaced trust in the opinions of others as what I need in life.  Especially as our New Student Welcome Night approaches, I am reminded how much this attitude needs to be torn down in prayer and reflection, and I resolve to let nothing hinder this spread of the gospel during this crucial period.  I think of all my brothers and sisters up in Berkeley and Austin who just finished a long hard battle for souls, and how they could not let fears restrain them from this great mission and opportunity, and how richly God worked through the hundreds that came to events and the many divine encounters and conversations that took place.  And how much I simply must fear the one who is worthy of it, God, and also who loved me and took away the wrath I feared by His love.

And I also see the ways in which comfort is a faulty motivation that is strong in my life.  Not merely physical comfort, but so often it is the emotional comfort I crave. Not wanting to bring up difficult issue with roommates or friends to just keep some semblance of everything is fine. Or when struck by some point in the Bible or a message, my first instinct is always to not want to go there, consider it any further because it just might be true and entail some action or response.  I have to tell myself virtually every time that I need to think this through, truth is truth and will not change if I run from it, and it will be for the best and is probably not as bad as I fear anyway.  And my desire to avoid awkwardness and not rock the boat in conversation with a co-worker or student I meet by bringing up Christianity is a desire for comfort as well, to just keep the relationship easy and surface level.

  • Reflect on vv. 14-15.  Am I living for Jesus or am I living for myself?

As I consider the motivations listed above, I must say that I live at times for Christ and at times for myself.  Certainly as the years have gone on, more and more of my life has been given up for Christ. Concrete steps of joining ministry, giving increasing time for others, going to Taiwan as a short-term missionary, moving to an unknown future in Riverside to help with the church plant.  All of these were a response to God’s love, and attempt to follow and respond to Him.

But there are still many ways in which I just seek out living for myself: trying to be comfortable and have easy relationships. Trying to not look to foolish and not bring up Christianity too much, or even trying to save face in times of sharing sins and struggles with my brothers.

 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

  • What new role and mission is given to every Christian?

The new role and mission given to every Christian is the reconciling people to God through Jesus Christ.  We are minister and ambassadors for Christ.

This truth still blows my mind, the thought that God who created and heavens and the earth, who desired to forgive sinful, broken man and bring salvation to this world chose to work not through signs and wonders, not through prophets and powerful judges, not through kings or rulers, not through angels and supernatural beings, but instead through a group of also sinful men called the church.  It seems counterproductive; it seems foolish.  Mankind is the ones that need saving, we are the ones who failed and fell so far from God, and now he wants to take rebels and enemies of God and use them to spread his message of love and salvation?!  It seems like a surefire plan for failure, for heartache and misunderstanding.  But when Jesus came to earth, he made it clear, this is the plan.

So each person, formerly an enemy of God is now given a place in God’s family, on God’s army.  And the truth is we do fail a lot, we do mar God’s image, the church shoots itself in the foot all the time.  The number one refrain of non-believers is “I like Jesus but can’t stand his church,” or “I just don’t feel I need to go to church.” But the church is God’s plan! It is the vehicle of salvation to this world.  It is Christ’s Body! It is a bit crazy, it is certainly undeserved, but God in his mystery and wisdom chose it to be so.  Perhaps it is his great desire to build a relationship with his people, for them to experience his heart that compelled him to it.

  • Have I embraced my call as a “minister” of the gospel?  How has this identity affected how I view (or make decisions regarding) my future, money, time, relationships and every other area of my life?

I have increasingly embraced my call to be a minister of the gospel. It is God who makes it possible.  I certainly don’t feel equal to or qualified to this task by any stretch of the imagination, but it is God who called each of us to be a minister.  That gives me great confidence, I certainly would not have called Greg to be a minister, but because God does, that is enough.  And it gives me great motivation, my Lord and Savior asks this of me, how can I not but live this kind of life, valuing people and spending as much time as I can trying to reach them, share God’s love with them, persuade them of the truth of the gospel as I was persuade, and build meaningful relationships through hanging out, eating meals together, playing sports together.

How has this identity affected how I made decisions about my future? It has changed everything.  Next to heaven and eternal life with God, that which I am most thankful for is a purpose to live, a trajectory in life I am proud of.  Before I was Christian, my three goals in life were simply 1) Do well in school, then my career to make a lot of money 2) have as much fun and pleasure as I could along the way 3) make people laugh and like me.

That was all I had going, and the life I was headed down for as fast as I could would have involved taking the highest paying engineering job wherever the might be after graduation, probably on some offshore oil rig, and moving as often as needed to keep climbing up the ladder. I was ready to leave friends, family, and meaningful relationships behind. I never would have really loved anyone outside of my immediate family assuming I settled down long enough to get married, and at best a few hours of volunteer work if I felt like it.  And even with my family I know my ambition would have drove me to long hours of work and travel and regretting neglecting them.  I would have wasted all my money on fast cars, new gadgets, big houses, and extravagant vacations.  I would have made a lot and blessed no one with it.  I would have been very proud and arrogant at work and probably at home as well and used my mind to cut people and their ideas down as often as it seemed appropriate, relishing in the chance to make them look foolish and burning with indignation when the same was done to me.  I would have much preferred people liking me and laughing at my jokes over knowing anything about who I was at a deeper level.  I would have died surrounded by toys and money that could not go with me to the grave, few lives touched by mine, and with no one really knowing me.  My funeral probably would have been a small one, and my memory quickly fading.

But now, having seen the example of those spiritually more mature going ahead of me that has all changed.  During my 5th year and M.S. giving so much time to try and meet students and serve at church, serving those 2nd graders from Oakland through Impact chemistry were deliberate decisions borne out of the love I had received and new calling on my life.  Going to Taiwan though I had 0 connection with Taiwan but saw that God’s church needed help was an example of that motivation.  And over there I was rewarded with such experience of God, rich relationships, and a deep love for those Taiwanese students.  And I remember even when I was in Seattle unemployed, giving so much of my days to meet with people, minister to international students, work on Bible studies, and organize events for church.  One of my close friends remarked, “You are the busiest unemployed guy I have ever met.” Moving down to Riverside whereas I had always poked fun at my southern California friends was done to help out with a church plant and serve alongside God’s people.

I got to attend Sarah’s 40th birthday yesterday, and in a lot of ways it epitomizes the kind of life I have fallen in love with now.  She too had no vision for her life or of impacting people for Christ in college, but now, 20 years since those days, she has so many layers and circles of people she has had a profound impact on for Christ.  The class of 2002 which all shared such gushing gratitude for her love and truth, various classes of people that her and P. Daniel ministered to in A2F, younger sisters that she studied with and spent time with, people that even worked and carpooled with her, and now this San Diego church.  They all testify to her love and sacrifices for her.  Her life is so full, so rich, covered in people and memories and sacrifice.  As she thanked everyone, she credited God for giving her this ministry she never expected and this church or teaching her how to love.  She said she never once regretted any so-called sacrifice for Christ.  If by 40 my life could impact just a fraction of those Sarah has impacted, I would consider it a life extremely well lived.

Submitted by Brian W. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

  • What were the things Apostle Paul mentioned as sources of motivation for his ministry?

Apostle Paul sources of motivation comes from fully understanding the Gospel message: as someone who has been pardoned as a sinner, originally destined for hell; eternal separation from God – he fully understands the ramifications of what he was saved from and also knowing that this is the destiny of every man, woman, and child, he is convinced this is the only way to save them.  “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

But it’s also the added privilege and sense of entrustment that Apostle Paul works – he knows very well how important this message is to people.  It’s like this: like being part of a city hit with an epidemic a disease claiming the lives of close friends you know, family members – going to work and hearing that your close co-worker you often share stories with, and often grab lunch, didn’t come in because he was hit with this incurable disease.  Going home and finding out your six year old daughter whom your love and care deeply about, is sick in bed with the same disease.  Then also finding out days later that you yourself have been inflicted with the same life-threatening disease.  But days later you find a lab with a cure – and being a recipient of the cure; getting another chance at life: what’s the first thing you do?  You immediately give his cure to you daughter, you call up your coworker’s family and tell them you’ve found a way to cure him, and you tell every last person you know and hopefully save the lives of thousands.

It’s this privilege of saving lives, being this ambassador that goes out to the people with the disease called “sin,” that leaves us completely marred and disfigured from the inside out.   But knowing the cure called “Christ,” will take our old life and make us completely new and from this Apostle Paul finds his motivation to run as hard as he does – to face persecution, rejection, criticisms, but never defeated because he knows what he has is greater than anything else he had before.

  • What motivates me?

It’s only after so many years of ministry that I’ve come to understand and experience what Apostle Paul is talking about.  As I reflect upon my life, yeah I’ve been saved from a lot – this disease called “sin” before a good and holy God, I would’ve found myself wrecked.  Though even on top of that, I always think about the life that I live now: I get to see lives change, seeing people whose vision of life was simply to get through college get a decent career and just live a mediocre life: working, coming home, watching a little TV or a movie, and maybe take a vacation once in awhile, but caring about no one but themselves.  It’s seeing lives change of those who’ve been addicted to pornography, drugs, gambling, alcohol, cheap thrills and trying to find excitement in doing something life-threatening or illegal.  It’s seeing these kinds of lives change into people who have a greater purpose; it’s seeing these kinds of people go from being selfish to selfless and they’re now replacing these cheap thrills with the thrill of going out there and trying to convince people of the truth of their sin, and how Christ is the only one who can save.  It’s the joy of seeing people who once would’ve only lived for themselves, now cooking for people, handing out flyers, spending hours preparing to teach someone an intro course to Christianity or lead a small group.  And I only say this because the lives I described was exactly my life, uninspired or looking for the next thrill – but now I have the real thrill of being an ambassador for this message that will not only save people from certain death, but also rescue them into a life that’s worth everything to live.

  • Reflect on vv. 14-15.  Am I living for Jesus or am I living for myself?

“For the love of Christ controls us…he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him for whose sake died and was raised.”

I think about my life, and there are still areas of my time and resource I need to surrender, but for the most part this life for Jesus is the kind of life that am committed to.  And the reason I can claim this is because I think about what I would be doing apart from this Gospel message: going to work, trying to live for the next promotion, coming home consuming the latest media, gadget, or game – eat, sleep, rinse and repeat.  But I think about the kind of things I live for now and I even think about what I’ve experienced this past week – spending a whole day moving people into their new places, fellowshipping with a group of brothers after we’ve successfully helped Allen/Jenny and group of sisters move into their new places.  And the joy not stopping there, but going out and providing a little warmth and happiness with my friends to visit some guys who were taking finals, providing them a warm meal.  Doing this all in hopes to share the same kind of love that I’ve received because of the Gospel.  And at end of each day being completely exhausted from cooking, hosting different people, being there to answer questions for people who have questions about Christianity or just life, being there for a friend who needs to talk, and in the end to do whatever it takes to love people, this life is so much better than the alternative ever was – truly the life Jesus wants me to live is much more rewarding than even the best life that I could live for myself.

2 Corinthians 5:18-20

  • What new role and mission is given to every Christian?

This is the job of every Christian, naturally being a recipient of something good and something amazing, is to spread this Good News to every one who has not heard yet – it’s like analogy of the disease and the cure; we would want everyone to know, if we are indeed headed to certain death, how be saved from this fate.

  • Have I embraced my call as a “minister” of the gospel?  How has this identity affected how I view (or make decisions regarding) my future, money, time, relationships and every other area of my life?

The more I’ve been a part of ministry, the more lives I’ve seen change, the more that I’ve been convinced more and more that nothing could’ve saved me from my sinfulness, the more I realize this: if I believe this Gospel to be true, if this is the only thing that can save people from certain death then, why wouldn’t I spend all my time that I have to tell others about this Good News, why wouldn’t I spend all my money to do whatever it takes to bring people to an understanding of saving grace?  Truly believing that the Gospel is the most important thing, then I wouldn’t find any value to invest in building up my career because I know that, will only last temporarily – even on this earth, an economic crisis, and ultimately the end of life will take that all away.  Investing getting a nice house, or buying the latest and greatest in technology will be the same at the end of my “comfortable” life; to bluntly put it I would still be dead at the end of my life.

If this Gospel is the most important thing in my life, then there’s nothing I would stop at doing what it takes to spread it, my time, my energy, my money, my resources, staying faithful to these relationship I have with my fellow brothers and sisters – it’s like someone whose started their own business – if they take that business seriously they would pour whatever resources they could to make sure that business succeeds – then how much more would someone invest in something that meant it would guarantee people eternal life?

And thought it doesn’t mean that it’s going to make every decision easy, there’s still going to be struggles with giving up certain things, but it is something to come back to again and again to because logically it does make sense.  If this is everything, if the Gospel has the ability to save lives, then why not give everything for it?

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